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WDC approves “Rainbow resolution”

11.2. 2015 Written By: Gordon Houser 3,405 Times read

Photo: Western District Conference participants place cloths in a cross in the opening worship. (Photo by Gordon Houser)

At their annual meeting Oct. 30-31 in North Newton, Kan., Western District Conference (WDC) delegates voted by a 72-percent majority to approve a resolution that “pastors, with the affirmation of their congregations, consistent with Mennonite polity, and without fear of censure, may officiate or refuse to officiate ceremonies that consecrate before God monogamous, life-long unions, regardless of the sexual orientation of those being united.”

The resolution came from Rainbow Mennonite Church in Kansas City, Kan., which introduced it to the July 4-6, 2014, WDC delegate assembly. Following that meeting, WDC asked member congregations to participate in a 20-question online survey as a first step in a conference-wide conversation responding to the resolution. WDC’s executive board also appointed a task force to study and seek input on issues of sexuality and polity.

WDC discussed the resolution at its fall 2014 and last spring’s reference councils.

This year’s meeting was moved to October so as not to conflict with the Mennonite Church USA Delegate Assembly in July.

Peggy Coriell, moderator of Rainbow Mennonite Church, introduced the resolution to delegates, noting that the process took time. She emphasized that the resolution “only addresses pastors performing same-sex covenant ceremonies.”

Richard Gehring, WDC moderator and pastor of Manhattan (Kan.) Mennonite Church, said the district will still follow the Membership Guidelines of Mennonite Church USA and review the credentials of a pastor who performs such a ceremony. However, the focus of that review will be whether or not the pastor followed the discernment of the congregation.

During discussion of the resolution, one delegate made a motion that a 60-percent majority be required for the resolution to be approved, rather than a simple majority. Delegates defeated that motion 132-126. Later, that became a moot point.

Several delegates expressed concern about the repercussions of passing the resolution. One asked, “If the Western District is ‘at variance,’ are congregations and individuals [in WDC] also at variance?”

Gehring noted that a pastor who performed a same-sex ceremony after discerning it with his or her congregation would not be at variance with WDC but with the broader church.

Other delegates asked people to respect LGBTQ individuals and stop referring to who they are as following a “lifestyle.” One delegate said it is easy to justify our sin, but “this leads to destruction,” referring to Matthew 7:13-14.

Before delegates voted, Gehring explained the ballot, which included two choices under “yes” and two under “no.” A person could simply affirm the resolution or affirm it, even though they oppose same-sex relationships. On the other hand, a person could vote against the resolution or vote no, even though they affirm same-sex relationships.

The final tally showed 185 voting yes, with 30 of these noting they oppose same-sex relationships, while 72 voted no, with four noting they affirm same-sex relationships.

Worship together

During the opening worship, Heidi Regier Kreider was installed as WDC conference minister. In her sermon, she said the church is to be a contrast community, a caring community and a Christ-centered community. “We are held together not by our own efforts but by God,” she said.

In a closing worship service, Ervin Stutzman, executive director of Mennonite Church USA, spoke on “The Reconciliation of All Things in Christ.” He asked what it means to be held together (the assembly’s theme) in a denomination that sometimes seems like it’s falling apart. “My advice is to hold on to Jesus and let him hold on to you.”

WDC’s church planting commission reported that there are three church plants in the conference, all of them Hispanic congregations.

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6 Responses to “WDC approves “Rainbow resolution””

  1. Debra Bender says:

    Well, let me be the first to say, “There, now, that wasn’t so hard now was it?” if I could figure out what, exactly, it is that WDC did and what their “polity” actually is . . . reread the article a couple times and still don’t know. Gives new meaning to “spin,” IMHO.

    Here’s a thought: Maybe gay “Mennonite” folks who want to get married should just do what Cliff and I did many years ago – go and see a judge! Took 40 minutes and cost $20. We accomplished what needed to be done and our marriage is as legal as anyone else’s. We saved a lot of time and money and are still together all these years later!

  2. Steve says:

    Hooray for WDC! Praise God for conferences and congregations ready to move into new ways of honoring Jesus and being faithful to scripture.

    • Richard Worden Wilson says:

      This is not likely to be faithful to (the God of) scripture because it is not possible to justify it in relation to the historical reality of Old Covenant scripture sexual moral teaching being upheld by New Covenant authors’ witness including the teaching of Jesus on marriage being heterosexual. If you think this is being faithful to Jesus you are at least creating a Jesus that didn’t exist on earth as described by scripture. There are many things one may dispute about scriptural teaching but this isn’t one of them.

  3. M. South says:

    “Praise God for conferences and congregations ready to move into new ways of honoring Jesus and being faithful to scripture.”

    It’s definitely a radically new approach, to celebrate same-sex coupling and call it Christian. If it honors your Jesus, that must be a radically different Jesus from the Savior I know, for it dishonors mine. As for being faithful to scripture, the behavior is certainly ancient, but there is no factual basis whatsoever to call celebration of it scriptural, when there is no support whatsoever for such a view in any previous theology during the past two thousand years preceding your sudden new revelation.

    The departure from our former faith and belief structure is so radical and apposite that if conferences and congregations are overwhelmed by the novelty of this radical spirit, then they should be in full recognition that they are converting to an entirely new religion, based on new revelations, superseding what 2000 years of saints and martyrs believed. This is regardless of what they call themselves, and even if they take the name of Menno Simons, who we know surely would have shunned them.

    • Richard Worden Wilson says:

      I’m inclined to Amen this. This new movement for same gender sexual relations is neither Anabaptist nor consistently “Menno”nite.

  4. Dan Lais says:

    You can put lipstick on a pig but it is still a pig
    Looks like WDC did lipstick and makeup to boot
    What a crock!

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